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Mainstream Psychologists' Derision of Science Fiction

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  • Mainstream Psychologists' Derision of Science Fiction

    I haven't read this in it's entirety yet as I only just ran across it and am in no condition to digest it but I thought I'd drop it here for future reference and discussion.

    https://theconversation.com/amp/fan-...-sights-131342
    "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
    --Thomas a Kempis

  • #2
    Well, as someone who:
    a) enjoyed science fiction from an early age
    b) has attempted to write the blessed stuff himself
    and c) who has included neuropsychology in his broader educational background (neuropsychology's the leading research branch of psychology)
    I might have a few words to say about that thesis, that SF is aimed at the bottom of the barrel ...

    Ursula Le Guin is right about it being useful to take a step back and look at the world as we know it, and gain a fresh perspective. I find the pure escapist SF to be largely unreadable; I find the ones that include "references" to the surrounding world so much more interesting and useful, because they indicate that the writer isn't going to short-change me when it comes to extrapolations. Short-changing the reader with absurd unbelievable "extrapolations" is one of the things I abandon writers over.

    I might also add, short-changing the student with unbelievable theories is also barely forgivable. I still haven't forgotten reading Eysenck's Penguin books on psychology and finding that very little reference to the neurological background of various psychological framework theories (Freud, jung, Gestalt, etc) existed.

    One thing that might be worth referring psychologists to, is the fact that a number of SF authors, such as Phillip K. Dick, Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, etc, grew up in circumstances where the "bourgeous" certainties do not exist. In those circumstances one finds that one cannot write anything where the "bourgeous" certainties of "realistic" fiction apply - even at his most "realistic", J.G. Ballard for example, does not write "realistic" fiction.
    sigpic Myself as Mephistopheles (Karen Koed's painting of me, 9 Nov 2008, U of Canterbury, CHCH, NZ)

    Gold is the power of a man with a man
    And incense the power of man with God
    But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
    And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod,

    Nativity,
    by Peter Cape

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    • #3
      [QUOTE=In_Loos_Ptokai; even at his most "realistic", J.G. Ballard for example, does not write "realistic" fiction.[/QUOTE]

      Oh well, i did try to find some critical essays by the late great J. G Ballard that just might shine some light on this whole thorny issue ( mainstream psychology versus science fiction ) and what i discovered instead was Ballard's advice to new writers. At the end of some very interesting pointers he came to this general caveat : Don't write creatively at all if one can help it.

      Sort of in the order of " Don't do Fiction : Choose Life. "

      That particular gem from J.G.B dovetails perfectly with my own notion that the next cultural stage after Post - Modernism will be Post - Literacy.

      By the way...Thank you so very much for that particular mess Jean Baudrillard !
      👿
      Yes - if ever there was a war declared on coherent thinking then blame it on some A-hole French Philosopher born after 1928 and all the other dinosaurs of the deconstructionist swampland as well but please leave the poor ghetto dwelling science- fiction writers alone for pity's sake!

      Just recently i re-read Ursula K. Le Guin's The Word for World is Forest and so find myself very much in agreement with the overall thrust of the essay supplied by Everking.

      The dark wonderland ' matrix' of science fiction ( at its best ) inevitably leads the reader back into the desert of the real world.

      The J. G Ballard article is here - https://lithub.com/you-cant-rely-on-...m-j-g-ballard/
      Last edited by Kymba334; 06-03-2020, 08:53 PM.
      Mwana wa simba ni simba

      The child of a lion is also a lion - Swahili Wisdom

      Comment


      • #4
        The "offending" study is actually much more well thought out than the article makes it out to be. It would not surprise me in the least if some of the researchers are themselves serious SFF fans, if not convention goers.

        Nevermind that everybody is in Sights of Psychologists. It's what they do.

        As for the perennial Literary Vs SFF conflict, far as I can tell the vat grown meat of Ian McEwen's dastardly dismissal was the following:
        "There could be an opening of a mental space for novelists to explore this future, not in terms of travelling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots, but in actually looking at the human dilemmas of being close up to something that you know to be artificial but which thinks like you..."

        Personally, I don't find much to get worked up about in that. Of course there are SFF authors "actually looking at the human dilemmas" but there are, and always have been, ones who tend to skim over such content.

        Also note the above quote is preceded by a declaration that McEwan has little time for "conventional science fiction" which, besides revealing he has time for unconventional science fiction, pretty much puts him in the company of MM himself.

        Dig a little deeper and you can find the another interview with McEwan which finds him stating:
        "Science fiction writers and thriller writers and traditional so-called ‘literary’ novelists are all novelists... and they finally have to be judged on how good they are, not on which category they belong in."

        Earlier in the article it says:
        "Among the science fiction authors that he’s read and enjoyed are Philip K. Dick, Walter M. Miller, Brian Aldiss, Ursula K. Le Guin, Frank Herbert, Stanislaw Lem, Tom Disch, and Olaf Stapledon."

        Now I would have thought Herbert would qualify as conventional SF, but he did tend to interrogate those human dilemmas, so what do I know. I do think, however, the article is not so much a castle in the air as one built in a swamp. Maybe if the writer had gone through four revisions it might have stood up...
        Last edited by Heresiologist; 06-05-2020, 10:45 PM.

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        • #5
          Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.
          I have not read the original article so I am not sure if the article concludes with calling science fiction fans as "narcissists", but in a way, we all have our ego issues, though I think mine are stupid and I try to avoid them, some people, like psychologists may not. On the other hand, humankind has been creating stories for thousands of years and I suppose that "realistic" is simply a modern trend that real literature mainstream accepts only if it can be called allegoric. I am thinking about happy fantasies, where nobody suffers the vicissitudes of life and I don't think even the most naive ones comply with it, after all, fairy tales started as stories where trolls ate starving lost children.

          Gene Wolfe said that "All novels are fantasies. Some are just more honest about it".
          "From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue.(...) Now I am silent; this is my mood." From Sundrun's Garden, Jack Vance.
          "As the Greeks have created the Olympus based upon their own image and resemblance, we have created Gotham City and Metropolis and all these galaxies so similar to the corporate world, manipulative, ruthless and well paid, that conceived them." Braulio Tavares.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by EverKing View Post
            I haven't read this in it's entirety yet as I only just ran across it and am in no condition to digest it but I thought I'd drop it here for future reference and discussion.

            https://theconversation.com/amp/fan-...-sights-131342
            I read the article by Gavin Miller , I see he is from Glasgow University , I am originally from Glasgow however I feel I disagree with his viewpoints . If SciFi/Fantasy is an escape for the underprivileged , why is it so popular worldwide in all classes ? One of my Chaos Twins is at University studying psychology , I have asked her to read Miller's article and let me know what she thinks . I will post when she gives me her thesis on it !!!


            , [Ok Emerson ...oot the motor !!!!

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            • #7
              I think the article written by Gavin is not that bad

              Rather than ask us to pull on our anti-gravity boots, open the escape hatch and leap into fantasy, science fiction typically aspires to be a literature that faces up to social reality. It owes this ambition, in part, to psychology’s repeated accusation that the genre markets escapism to the marginalised and disaffected.
              I am not sure about the article he cites.

              I am on therapy for many years because of my chronic OCD and my therapist initially did not quite get my tastes for speculative fiction so I spent some time explaining her and today she seems ok with this, but she is from the cognitive area. Way back I was into a Freudian therapy and the therapist albeit not the best for my OCD was rather more cool with my tastes.
              But in a general sense, science fiction is considered a step-down genre.

              Fernanda Montenegro, the Brazilian actress Central Station once said that she hated Blade Runner because she thought science fiction was a genre for childish grown-up men but many years later some took her to the comic con and I am not quite certain why and instead of praising or mentioning science fiction she just talked about Brazilian theater author Nelson Rodrigues.

              I also remember when I was in college and I used to visit a used books store often and I had this massive Delphi book ( which I bought because it was massive but I never read it ) which I wanted to trade for a few Ray Bradbury's books and the owner looked at me as if I was a child and said: "At least you are gonna get some fun".

              Science fiction fans are often offered these condescending looks but many forget that guys like Borges wrote speculative fiction. Even the all-time best Brazilian author Guimaraes Rosa wrote stories in a mythical land in Brazil which of course was exactly like the lands of the north of Minas Gerais but there were a lot of fantastic elements in there.

              Brazilian author Marcelo Coelho which is a very good essayist and writes terrific short stories once said he stopped reading Ray Bradbury because he was expecting science but he found the science not too complicate as he was expecting, but generally, he is a very smart person. Once he mentioned that he heard of steampunk and I explained to him a bit in a comment on his blog and he was very humble to admit that he did not know the genre but thought the concept very interesting.

              Oh, what about comics? 😀
              "From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue.(...) Now I am silent; this is my mood." From Sundrun's Garden, Jack Vance.
              "As the Greeks have created the Olympus based upon their own image and resemblance, we have created Gotham City and Metropolis and all these galaxies so similar to the corporate world, manipulative, ruthless and well paid, that conceived them." Braulio Tavares.

              Comment


              • #8
                Zlogdan , I have been reading and collecting comics for 50 years now . There are some very special series of comics out there , Don McGregor's run on War of the Worlds and Jungle Action with Panther's Rage , Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy on Master of Kung Fu , to name only a tiny proportion , were well written , not just for an uneducated audience . I read comics because I enjoy the art and stories , some that are just written to produce money , I will not buy (and there are many of them !!! ) but there are classic comic books , some written well before their time . I had a friend who thought comics were only for children , he was a Bruce Lee fan and when I introduced him to The Master of Kung Fu Paul Gulacy run , he was astounded at the quality of the story and art . I siad on the old forum many yearsd ago , it is Mike's fault I started on comics , I had been reading Elric and my brother one day brought home a British weekly Savage Sword of Conan with Elric on the cover , afer that I fell into Spiderman , Avengers et al and now have a collection of over 7,000 reaching from WW2 to the present .


                , [Ok Emerson ...oot the motor !!!!

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                • #9
                  Don't get me wrong WW, I have been reading and collecting for around 40 years.
                  i love master of Kung fu, recently acquired an omnibus
                  I would also cite Jim Starlin Warlock.
                  "From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue.(...) Now I am silent; this is my mood." From Sundrun's Garden, Jack Vance.
                  "As the Greeks have created the Olympus based upon their own image and resemblance, we have created Gotham City and Metropolis and all these galaxies so similar to the corporate world, manipulative, ruthless and well paid, that conceived them." Braulio Tavares.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    While I disagree with the thesis that Science Fiction/Fantasy is merely escapism--that it provides no real literary value--I do think there is truth that large portions of the literary world continue to view it as such. It seems no matter how many Dicks, Le Guins, and Moorcocks there are the bulk of mass market pulp churned out seems to be the focus of these negative opinions of SF. Many either ignore the deeper SF, whether by will or ignorance, as mere outliers rather than the true core of the genres (if you accept the division of fiction into genre). Mike himself addressed some of it in Epic Pooh.

                    What I find offensive is the idea that all fans and readers of SF are somehow broken, seeking out escape from their troubles due to some underlying pathology. The gross generalization behind such ideas are ultimately damaging and fail to consider the unique exploration of imagination possible only through SF. SF provides the opportunity to parse a complex human issue to its most focused point by providing an extreme scenario. Good SF, in that way, can be viewed as something as a narrative thought experiment and few scientists or psychologists would deny that well designed thought experiments provide real insight and value to developing understanding of the human experience.
                    "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                    --Thomas a Kempis

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by zlogdan View Post
                      Don't get me wrong WW, I have been reading and collecting for around 40 years.
                      i love master of Kung fu, recently acquired an omnibus
                      I would also cite Jim Starlin Warlock.
                      Zlog, I have the run of Jim Starlin's Warlock and also the ( first ) death of Thanos in the Avengers Annual . Great stuff . I keep rereading Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's run on Batman as well . Barry Smith's work on Conan was phenomenal. I agree with Everking in that it is annoying the idea we all seek to escape from our benighted lives or problems by heading into the Multiverse or The Dreaming City , my Chaos Twin would be psychologist hasn't woken up enough to read the article yet so she cangive an opinion....I sometimes think there's a bit of Melnibonean Dragon inher the amount of time she spends sleeping !!!


                      , [Ok Emerson ...oot the motor !!!!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by white wolf's son View Post

                        Zlog, I have the run of Jim Starlin's Warlock and also the ( first ) death of Thanos in the Avengers Annual . Great stuff . I keep rereading Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's run on Batman as well . Barry Smith's work on Conan was phenomenal. I agree with Everking in that it is annoying the idea we all seek to escape from our benighted lives or problems by heading into the Multiverse or The Dreaming City , my Chaos Twin would be psychologist hasn't woken up enough to read the article yet so she cangive an opinion....I sometimes think there's a bit of Melnibonean Dragon inher the amount of time she spends sleeping !!!
                        I love Jack Kirby's art but I am not anything fond of Stan Lee. So anything with Kirby written by him I try to read. I know his text reflects the time and how comics were written so I have forced myself to understand it and it finally resonated with me that Kirby is a good writer too. I am reading his Eternals saga and it is pretty good.
                        There are lots of cool stuff written by Dennis O'Neil for Batman in the 70s. But for me, I think Warlock is just the best of this time. I don't remember the stories of Master of Kung Fu, which I read a long time ago, but I need to read them again for sure.
                        "From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue.(...) Now I am silent; this is my mood." From Sundrun's Garden, Jack Vance.
                        "As the Greeks have created the Olympus based upon their own image and resemblance, we have created Gotham City and Metropolis and all these galaxies so similar to the corporate world, manipulative, ruthless and well paid, that conceived them." Braulio Tavares.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Zlogdan , there is an excellent Marvel Epic collection , Master of Kung Fu , Fight without Pity , which has all the main Gulacy issues especially the issues with Shen Kuei , Cat , one of my favourite characters . The artwork is astounding , I also used to have a Siamese Havana cat and called him Shen Kuei . You can pick the Epic book up at The Book Depository , it's in full colour and paperback . I collected all The Eternals series from issue 1 and at that time the last two issues were not distributed in the UK however I managed to get them from a mail order comic store in England , I don't know how they got them but they were only 10p each ! . Yes , Warlock by Starlin is amazing , did you know Jim Starlin drew the first appearance of The Master of Kung Fu in Special Marvel Edition 15 ? amazing stuff . As for the Trainee Melnibonean psychologist , she woke up , mumbled something about still being tired , had a breakfast then went back to the Dream Couch again , so I am still waiting on her analysis of the article ! I'll keep you updated !!


                          , [Ok Emerson ...oot the motor !!!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by white wolf's son View Post
                            Zlogdan , there is an excellent Marvel Epic collection , Master of Kung Fu , Fight without Pity , which has all the main Gulacy issues especially the issues with Shen Kuei , Cat , one of my favourite characters . The artwork is astounding , I also used to have a Siamese Havana cat and called him Shen Kuei . You can pick the Epic book up at The Book Depository , it's in full colour and paperback . I collected all The Eternals series from issue 1 and at that time the last two issues were not distributed in the UK however I managed to get them from a mail order comic store in England , I don't know how they got them but they were only 10p each ! . Yes , Warlock by Starlin is amazing , did you know Jim Starlin drew the first appearance of The Master of Kung Fu in Special Marvel Edition 15 ? amazing stuff . As for the Trainee Melnibonean psychologist , she woke up , mumbled something about still being tired , had a breakfast then went back to the Dream Couch again , so I am still waiting on her analysis of the article ! I'll keep you updated !!
                            WW Yes that is the one I have

                            https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B079V6X...ng=UTF8&btkr=1

                            Kung Fu Epic collection. I have the digital edition I bought from google play some time ago. It has been at my pile of to read for a while. If not mistaken the first story there has been drawn by Starlin. I use to say Marvel's B sides are much cooler than A-sides and eventually we all knew that: Daredevil, Mast Of Kung Fu, Anything by Starlin that does not include the usual avengers, like Warlock ( i know that the avengers are part of his story but I pretty much like what has been written/drawn by Starlin ), Conan, etc; Except for the fantastic four and x-men I was never much of a marvel-head A side fan, eg, Spider-Man, The Avengers, Hulk, Captain America, etc. Stan Lee has never impressed me ( assuming he actually wrote anything by himself ) but Kirby's art is astonishing.

                            When I was a kid, I mostly bought DC comics because I could not afford all, but once in a while there were these creepy omnibuses that had all Thanos stories, Warlock, X-men Fenix, etc which I bought.
                            "From time to time I demonstrate the inconceivable, or mock the innocent, or give truth to liars, or shred the poses of virtue.(...) Now I am silent; this is my mood." From Sundrun's Garden, Jack Vance.
                            "As the Greeks have created the Olympus based upon their own image and resemblance, we have created Gotham City and Metropolis and all these galaxies so similar to the corporate world, manipulative, ruthless and well paid, that conceived them." Braulio Tavares.

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                            • #15
                              Z , my main hero was Killraven , followed by Spiderman , Shang Chi and the X - Men . I like Batman The Long Halloween and Dark Victory as well .


                              , [Ok Emerson ...oot the motor !!!!

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